I recently posted an article about Doug Rauch who's creating a restaurant based on "expired food." Robert Lambert, our source for marmalades, fruitcake and fruit syrups wrote a note I thought was worth sharing. Plus I love Robert and a good rant now and then, especially when it's true.
The piece about using expired food hit a lot of buttons for me, and forced me to comment. I’ve read that as much as 1/3 of our food is wasted because of those damn expiration dates. I was at my local market last week when the woman who’d been checked out before me came back into the store and said her bag of potato chips was expired. What the fuck could possibly happen to a potato chip?
At home I actually prefer expired cream, as it thickens and gets more like clotted cream. I rarely use eggs and can keep a carton for weeks, with no ill effect. I grew up in a time before dated foods—as the man says, you simply smelled it. People now seem to think "Best if used before ____. Use after ____ and it will kill you." An English friend says she only refrigerates her ketchup and mustard in America, because her friends here would be horrified if they saw it in her pantry, but she’d never do that in England. What on earth do they think is going to happen to ketchup and mustard?
The one question I’m asked by customers more than any other is, “How long will it last?” I never know what to say—it’s like, well, it’s preserved, that’s the whole point, it will last indefinitely, that’s the function of the process. It will be good for a very long time, probably years, until it isn’t any more, and at that point anyone with any brains should be able to tell. Nothing is going to suddenly turn into poison and kill you without warning. And as the man said, all cases of food poisoning are from unexpired foods.
It really is a case of overly zealous bureaucratic safeguards making people stupider. Nature builds in all the warnings you need, and it is our responsibility to be able to recognize them. I used to make a Coconut Dark Chocolate Sauce, stopped about 4 years ago, but kept a couple of jars in the closet. I opened one the other night, and while I know you might dispute that it was ever any good to begin with, it was unchanged, and delicious, and we had it for dessert. Had it been covered in mold and smelled bad, we probably wouldn’t have.